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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Friday, January 19, 2018

While a magic bullet to kill off the lyme disease carrying deer tick would be cheered, alas, the answer isn't that simple...................While extremely prolonged cold temperatures(zero and below) can have a debilitating impact on some % of the tick population, snow and leaf litter will moderate below ground temperatures to as high as 32 degrees, protecting ticks.............."A 2012 study at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY (Dutchess County), examined the probability of tick mortality in winter conditions in both Millbrook and Syracuse, NY"................. "The study found that exposure to subzero temperatures increased mortality “only at super-cold temperatures"................ "And it wasn’t a clear die-off; just an increased probability of dying".............”Regardless of winter conditions, more than 80 percent of the ticks survived at both sites"


Will Our Extreme Winter Cold Wipe Out Ticks?

Deer TickI’ve been asked on four different occasions, recently, how tick populations will be impacted by the December/January below-zero cold. Some of those asking had heard reports, apparently claiming that tick populations would be decimated, if not eradicated, by the prolonged period of extremely cold weather.
We’d all certainly welcome that. It’s probable that you or someone you know has been affected by ticks and/or by Lyme disease. And any downward pressure on tick populations is welcome. But, the answer isn’t that simple.
Extremely cold temperatures do have an impact on overwintering insects and insect-like critters. (Technically, ticks are not insects. They’re arachnids, like spiders.) But determining mortality rates based on winter weather conditions is anything but certain. The mechanisms that allow their survival are varied and complicated. So different groups will have different rates of survival.
Some ticks survive as eggs deposited before winter. Depending on the species, a single female tick may lay 3,000 – 8,000 eggs, after which she dies. Ticks in other stages of development also overwinter in the shelter and relative comfort of the soil or within leaf litter and ground clutter, where snow cover can actually provide additional protection from extremely cold temperatures and wind.

Even when the air temperature lingers in the double digits below zero F, things that are covered with an insulating blanket of snow will remain much nearer to 32°F. In fact, the temperature beneath the snow, in many cases, will keep the soil from freezing. I’ve been told that just one foot of snow cover will completely protect the soil, and any organisms living within the soil, from the subzero air temperatures above the snow surface. And many experts believe that, even without snow, it takes a long period of bitterly cold weather to even have a chance of knocking tick populations back.
The rate of mortality greatly increases, however, with the combination of extremely cold conditions and liquid water. Overwintering insects and non-insects alike (i.e. ticks), must remain dry; insulated by the surrounding ice and snow; but not touching it.

 ticks in leaf litter

A 2012 study co-authored by Rick Ostfeld; an ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY (Dutchess County), examined the probability of tick mortality in winter conditions in both Millbrook and Syracuse. The study found that exposure to subzero temperatures increased mortality “only at super-cold temperatures. And it wasn’t a clear die-off; just an increased probability of dying.” Regardless of winter conditions, more than 80 percent of the ticks survived at both sites.
According to Peter Jentsch, an entomologist and Senior Extension Associate with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Hudson Valley Lab in Highland, NY, “most living things are able to survive environmental extremes if they have enough time to transition and acclimate to change.”
It’s interesting to note, too, that a 2010 study from the Journal of Clinical Investigation showed that some ticks developed a type of glycoprotein, a compound produced within their bodies, which works to help them survive the cold.
Some tick species overwinter on warm mammalian hosts; often moose or deer, but also black bears, dogs, and occasionally horses or cattle. They attach themselves to the animals’ fur. Then, during the winter months, to the hosts themselves; feeding and molting until spring arrives, at which time they drop to the ground, where the females lay their eggs.
NYS Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program Extension Support Specialist, Joellen Lampman, first looks at how extremely harsh weather conditions may impact mammals; small mammals, like mice, when considering the question of the recent frigid weather and how it will impact tick populations.
In a recent IPM news article she writes, “Animals that have a harder time finding food are more likely to (in order of lessening consequences) die of starvation, succumb to other stresses such as disease or predation, fail to mate, give birth to fewer young, and give birth less often. In a nutshell, there should be fewer hosts, come spring. And fewer hosts eventually lead to fewer ticks.”
But there’s some bad news, too. Lampman writes, “During the time of high tick numbers and fewer small mammal hosts, each of us, and our companion animals, are at greater risk of coming into contact with questing (waiting on plants for a host) ticks. So, as soon as the temperatures rise into the mid-30s (and we know you will be out enjoying the veritable heat wave), ticks will be questing, and we need to steer clear of ticks and the diseases they carry – the IPM way.”
For more information, click here.

Does "killing frost" kill deer ticks?

If you think that recent nighttime temperatures dropping into the 20's is going to kill off the adult deer ticks crawling just about everywhere these days... well, think again! The killing frost may finish off your garden and the pesky mosquitoes that have remained around, but not the deer ticks. These ticks just don't die from the cold.
Instead, they typically retreat daily into the leaf litter to stay hydrated. Then, they'll climb back onto knee-high vegetation any time temperatures are above freezing, hoping to latch on to a passing deer, dog, cat, or human. To some, these ticks seem tough; they'll be out there until the ground freezes. And they'll be back as soon as it thaws. You need to know this so you're not caught un-prepared.
You may be wondering what does kill these persistent creatures. Adult deer ticks die when they finally run out of energy reserves acquired back when they were nymphs. This typically happens in the following May. But May is when the poppy seed-sized nymphs become active, so there really are very few "tick free" breaks during the year.

Ticknado! Scarier than Sharknado!

Just when you thought that the bloodsuckers of summer should be gone, some come back. TICKS. That's right! Not all types ... but one type that's especially dangerous - adult blacklegged ticks. Rather than being killed off by cooler nighttime temperatures -- even a frost or a freeze -- adult blacklegged tick populations are just rev-ving up, and they can strike ... well, like a Ticknado! And similar to being prepared for any other natural disaster, NOW is when you should have your tick bite protection toolkit ready and implemented.

Brrrrr... Polar "Vorticks"!

Have you been wondering (hoping) if these brutal polar vortex episodes sweeping the eastern half of the nation are freezing the palps off of blacklegged (deer) ticks? It’d be nice, right? Read more about Polar Vortex temps and how they impact ticks in our Tick Note: Polar Vorticks!

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